Law Firms

Firm will focus on high-end IP and commercial litigation after departures cut revenue

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Irell & Manella is changing focus after a string of departures cut gross revenue by 39% over a five-year period.

An internal memo in February by Jonathan Kagan, a member of Irell’s executive committee, said the firm would focus on high-end litigation involving intellectual property and commercial matters, the American Lawyer reports.

From 2014 to 2019, the number of lawyers at the firm dropped from 159 to 82. The firm’s gross revenue decreased from $247.5 million to $151.6 million.

Irell & Manella’s head count took a hit in January 2015 when seven partners and 25 associates left to form the litigation boutique Hueston Hennigan.

More recently, the firm has gone through three managing partners in three years. The first left to lead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The second stepped down and later jumped to Kirkland & Ellis. The third left for Milbank, reportedly after having merger discussions with the firm.

But Irell & Manella still has rainmaker Morgan Chu, the American Lawyer pointed out. Its profits per equity partner last year were still decent at $2.68 million, despite a decline of 9.9%. And the firm won more than $1 billion in jury verdicts last year, including a $752 million victory in one of Chu’s cases. The award was increased to $1.1 billion in a posttrial ruling.

Kagan told the American Lawyer that the firm’s current partnership agrees with the new focus. He also said the sharpened focus is keeping the firm’s lawyers busy.

As of early May, the firm had not cut pay or staff in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In light of the coronavirus and the dislocation of the economy, Irell might have the last laugh on this whole thing,” said one former, unidentified partner who spoke to the American Lawyer.

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